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The Schedule for the 17th Annual


Mountain Heritage Literary Festival


Please note the schedule below is subject to change. Please check back here for updates and changes as they will occur leading up to the festival, thank you! 



FRIDAY, JUNE 9, 2023


1:00pm to 3:00pm: Registration

3:00pm to 3:15pm: Welcome Session with Patrick Wensink 

3:30pm to 5:00pm:  Workshop Session


Drawing the Stories of Everyday Life with Arwen Donahue 

In this beginner-level workshop, we will explore various approaches to creating an illustrated journal. An illustrated journal uses words and pictures to record encounters with people, animals, trees, dreams, and/or just about anything else. If you’re interested in learning more about making comics or graphic narratives, keeping a illustrated journal is a great place to start-- and for more advanced practitioners, it's a great way to play with new material.


Writing Wonder: A Look at Writing Joy in Difficult Times with Karen Salyer McElmurray 

These are troubled times—with fires, hurricanes, floods, political upheavals, and an ongoing pandemic.  To my mind, one of the most important things we can do during such times is focus on community, connections, compassion, and joy. We will look at some writers who write joy in all its complexities via the natural world, the spiritual world, and via the transformative power of language. We will focus on excerpts from longer readings, and we will write in response to some exercises that can later be opened to full drafts of stories or essays or poems.


Introduction to Screenwriting with Jeffrey Jackson
This workshop will introduce you to the basics of screenwriting. We’ll explore how to generate ideas, ways to structure visual stories, and the basics of screenplay formatting. Expect a mix of fun and generative exercises and practical information.


5:00pm to 6:15pm: Dinner Break


6:30pm to 8:00pm: Workshop Session


Oh, the Places We’ve Been! Mining Setting for Stories with Gwen Kirby 

That mall you used to haunt for hours, eating gummy frogs and trying on jeans you couldn't’t afford? That town you passed through in Wisconsin, an oasis of minigolf and water parks? The house your dad grew up in, full of frog figurines and the smell of your grandmother’s burnt bread? Sometimes settings get their claws in us and refuse to let go, leaving us with a head full of details and no idea how to turn that setting into a story. In this class, we’ll mine remembered places for characters and plots, and bring the settings we can’t forget to life on the page.


Writing Music-Informed Poems with makalani bandele

In this generative workshop, we will talk about the different ways songs or musical compositions (with an emphasis on Jazz) can engage, enhance, and be operative in poems. A workshop full of visual and aural illustrations, the many exercises and skill practices will energize attendees aesthetic sensibilities. By its conclusion, attendees will leave with an ample trove of music-informed images, figures, and metaphors for generating new poem ideas, or utilization in new poems. Attendees will also take with them drafts of poems and fresh, exciting, collaborative opportunities.


8:30pm to 10:00pm: Participant and Instructor Readings 



10:00am to 11:30am: Workshop Session


Foregrounding the Background in Graphic Narratives with Arwen Donahue 

In this advanced workshop, we will explore how to use words and drawings together to create a sense of place in all kinds of graphic narratives. Pictures are places—they immediately give words a setting. History is present in our surroundings, hiding in plain sight. We will explore ways to harness the subtle power of this "background" to create compelling visual stories.


 Houses as Doorways to Ourselves with Karen Salyer McElmurray

This nonfiction workshop will look through the lenses of our memories at houses—ones we inhabit and ones we dream. We will read a few excerpts from memoirs that explore houses that are, as philosopher Gaston Bachelard says, places of contemplation and a gathering-in of memory and self-discovery. Most importantly, we will generate memoir pieces centered in the houses of our pasts, our present lives, and our imagined futures. We will write, share and discuss these important pieces of new writing.  


11:30am to 1:30pm: Lunch Break on your own


1:30pm to 3:00pm: Workshop Sessions


Survey of Recently Invented Poetic Forms with makalani bandele In this workshop, we will explore some of the newly invented poetic forms like The Golden Shovel, the unit (a form I invented), and Duplex, to name a few. This workshop will equip attendees with several new forms for their toolbox with the aim of invigorating and enhancing their writing practice. Being a generative workshop, attendees will have new draft(s) of an invented form and ideas for how to invent their own poetic form(s). (In preparation, each attendee should bring to the session 14 or more disparate lines of 9–11 syllables, each line on its own small sliver of paper. Lines may be from sentences of the attendee’s own prose or lines from poems that haven’t worked. No two lines have to be from the same source or time.) 


Advanced Screenwriting with Jeffrey Jackson

For those who want to go deeper into screenwriting, this workshop will expand your storytelling toolbox. Together as a class, we’ll explore how to create interesting characters and exciting scenarios, as well as write effective dialogue. Expect lively group exercises and discussions.


Building the Door and Walking Through: Exploring Short Story Openings with Gwen Kirby 

There are so many ways to start a story: with a dramatic event, with heavy foreshadowing, with a voice-y protagonist, or an unassuming description of a natural scene. In this class, we will look at examples of different types of story openings and discuss how they work, what information they convey, and what kind of stories they promise the reader. Then we will experiment with our own beginnings, taking risks and building doorways you can walk through long after class is over.


3:15pm to 4:45pm Publishing Panel Discussion

            Join our MHLF instructors of a panel discussion about publishing your work.


5:00pm to 6:15pm Dinner Break and Writing Award Winners Announced



6:30pm to 8:00pm: Keynote Address with James Tate Hill 



SUNDAY, JUNE 11, 2023


10:00am to 11:00am: Sunday Church Singalong